Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chris Christie Has Breathing Trouble

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, 48, was taken to the hospital Thursday after having difficulty breathing. Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an official statement that the governor was hospitalized at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., "out of an abundance of caution. In line with someone dealing with asthma, he is being given routine tests as a precautionary measure."

The governor was en route to a 10:30 a.m. bill signing event in Hillsborough, N.J., when the decision was made to go to the hospital. According to his official schedule, Christie was due to "sign legislation that allows for increased preservation of state land and natural resources."

Christie remained at the hospital in Somerville Thursday afternoon with no time set for his release.  Shortness of breath can also come from heart problems.  (New York Post, 7/28/2011)

Friday, July 22, 2011

New York Mayor Bloomberg Donates $50 Million to Sierra Club

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announcing his $50 million donation
 to the Sierra Club near a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Va.
Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Thursday that he would donate $50 million to the Sierra Club’s campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants across the United States. The announcement was made in Washington, DC on the bank of the Potomac River across from the Potomac River plant, which is owned by The 62-year old Potomac plant, which is owned by GenOn Energy, is among the oldest of the country’s roughly 400 coal-fired power plants.

Mayor Bloomberg appeared with the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune to announce the gift from his chief charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mr. Bloomberg said he hoped it would help the environmental group shut down as many as a third of the nation’s coal-burning power plants — the oldest and dirtiest ones — by 2020.

Coal provides nearly half of the nation’s electricity and accounts for roughly a third of its output of carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for warming the planet. Burning coal also produces millions of tons of other pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment.

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign claims to have blocked the opening of more than 150 coal-fired power plants in recent years through litigation and local action. Mr. Bloomberg’s $50 million represents a third of the campaign’s projected $150 million four-year budget.

The goal of the campaign is to cut electricity production from coal by 30 percent and mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2020. Mr. Bloomberg’s donation will be used to expand the campaign to 45 states from the current 15 and to double the number of full-time staff members to 200. (NYT, 7/21/2011)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Power NY Act of 2011

Article 10 Reauthorization Law

The Power NY Act of 2011 

The New York Legislature has passed and Govern Andrew Cuomo has signed the “Power NY Act of 2011.” Section 12 of the new law reauthorizes and modernizes Article X of the Public Service Law, which expired on January 1, 2003, governing the siting and approval of power plants in New York.

Like its predecessor, the new version of Article X aims to centralize and streamline the siting approval process, although the threshold for application of the law has been lowered from 80 to 25 megawatts. The law creates and vests permitting authority with the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (“the Board”). The statute provides that two local residents will be part of the Board with the other five members being State officials for each proceeding. The law also provides for “intervenor funding” which will enable municipalities and other local parties to participate in all phases of the administrative review, including the mandated adjudicatory hearing.

The Board is given authority to override local laws and ordinances if they are “unreasonably burdensome.” Unless otherwise agreed to by an applicant or extended due to a “material and substantial amendment to the application” or “extraordinary circumstances,” Board decisions must be rendered within a year of the application being deemed complete.

Article X displaces the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process for covered projects, but mandates several environmental analyses of the facility’s impacts. These analyses include a “cumulative air quality analysis” of the combined effects from the proposed facility, other proposed sources and all existing sources; a description of the demographics of the surrounding community; and a description of “reasonable and available” alternative locations. It also requires the Board to find that the project minimizes or avoids disproportionate impacts on the surrounding community.

There are significant differences between the new version of Article X and the expired version. The lower 25 megawatt threshold will allow smaller projects to be covered by the law and may particularly benefit developers of wind projects, which in most cases would not have been covered by the expired version. The increased emphasis on environmental justice impacts addresses concerns stated by environmental groups. Current applicants for local and state permits for a power plant may elect to be covered by the new law.  (Sive, Paget & Riesel, PC)

Governor Cuomo’s Memorandum on the Legislation

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

NY DEC Issues Natural Gas Fracking Proposal

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation posted its 700-plus-page blueprint for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, in the lucrative Marcellus Shale region on its website Friday, allowing industry and environmental groups to start dissecting the proposed plan to allow gas drilling in an area where it’s been on hold since 2008.  The proposal to places large areas off-limits to gas drilling, which industry representatives belive is overly restrictive, while environmentalists believe the proposed watershed protections do not go far enough.

The proposed New York rules include a section describing several gas-drilling operation accidents in Pennsylvania and outlining New York’s measures designed to mitigate such incidents. A coalition of 47 health and environmental groups has called for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, saying it poses unacceptable risks.  The Center New York has established Criteria For Evaluating Hydraulic Fracturing Projects.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed
In the proposal, the watersheds and state lands where gas-drilling would be prohibited amount to about 15 percent of the land in New York’s part of the Marcellus Shale, the nation’s largest-known natural gas reservoir. The formation underlies southern New York, much of Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Western Maryland.

Some believe the proposal to place the watersheds off-limits to drilling doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include a sufficient buffer around the ancient underground tunnels that carry water to New York City from its upstate reservoirs.

The first wave of Marcellus development in New York would likely run along Interstate 86 from Binghamton through Tioga and Chemung counties, near the Millennium Pipeline.  Lawsuits could occur in areas where there are attempts by municipal governments to use zoning or local ordinances to regulate natural gas activities.  (The Daily Record, 7/11/2011)